Posts

The Saturday Smoothie: Fall Tips to Achieve Better Health

Creating an Active Lifestyle

Who says that staying fit has to be be a pain?  Guess what, IT DOESN’T!  One of the great things about living a healthy and active lifestyle is you can choose any activities you like.  Enjoy riding a bike?  Great!  Love going on long runs in the mornings before the world wakes up?  Fantastic!  Find something that actually excites you.  Something that puts a smile on your face, rather than something you dread even thinking about.  Use these practical tips for incorporating fitness into your daily routine.  In no time, you’ll learn to love it.

Learn How To Create an Active Lifestyle (click)

Healthy Lifestyle

Practical Ways to be More Present

When we’re so in our own heads, and with our own thoughts, it prevents us from actually contributing much to the world.  In fact, it’s a great way to let life slip you by.  Instead, focus on being present.  Well, what does that even mean?  I hear the term thrown around a lot, but how is it actually applicable to me?  When you’re present, that little voice inside of your head is silenced.  You’re one with your surroundings, and your attention is completely focused and receptive to everything around you.  Sound enjoyable?  It is.  It’s such a great way to live.

Learn How to Be More Present

Be Present

Being Healthy and Satisfied with Less

 Just how much food do we really need?  When you see some people that constantly are eating, taking in 3,000, 4k, or even 5k calories per day, do you ever stop and think, is that really necessary to eat as much as you can get away with?  Well, what if we looked at it from the other side of the coin.  What if we ate as little as possible in order to remain healthy, fit, and productive?  Learn all about Mark Sisson’s approach to diet and health.  He has plenty of great reasons, as well as some tips and tricks, for how to stay lean and fit with a healthy diet.

Learn How to Be Content With Less

Satisfied with Less

When Was Your Last Fitness Event?

Think back to the last time that you set a physical goal and trained for it consistently.  Was it this year?  Was it 5 years ago?  Has it really been more than a decade?  Well, there’s still some time left in 2016 to finish the year healthier than you started, and what better way to do so than to sign up for an event.  It may sound a little daunting at first, but like anything in life, it’s well within the realm of possibility if you take things step by step.  Give it a shot, and you’ll be well on your way to newfound youth and vigor.

Learn How Easy it is to Run (or walk!) a 5k

Compete

How to Stay Healthy at Work

One of the biggest contributors to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle.  We sit while we eat, when we’re watching television, at our desks at work, and when we catch up with friends.  Add some stress from the workplace into the mix and it’s no wonder why many of us are overweight, or weigh more than we’d like.

Use these simple tips to ensure you can keep off the unwanted pounds, stay healthy at work, and continue ever forward on your journey towards better health.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Many people (myself included) love and need to start their day with caffeine.  Coffee is fine, but those caramel blended Frappuccinos or similarly sugar-filled drinks will make it downright impossible to stay in shape.  Instead of the dessert-like blended drinks, try a green or black tea, or even a black coffee.  If you don’t find black coffee too appetizing, try adding a bit of cinnamon – it works wonders.  If that combination is still too much to handle, try adding a splash of cream, but leave the sugar aside.

Sugary Drinks

Drink Water Throughout The Day

Keep a large bottle of water on your desk.  Fill it up.  Drink it.  Rinse and repeat.  It is a pretty simple concept, but even just having water in plain sight and within arms reach will substantially increase your water consumption.  If you want some variety, add a bit of lemon, lime, grapefruit, or carbonation to your water.  Worried about the increased number of trips to the bathroom?  Guess what, that’s a bit more exercise you would not have gotten in otherwise.  Often times when we snack, it’s actually because we’re dehydrated, not hungry.  So make it a priority to continually drink water throughout the day.

Take Short Breaks

Ideally you are utilizing a standing desk and trying to sit as little as possible, but if that is not the case or a standing desk is not available, take intermittent pauses in your day to take a stroll around the office, down the street, or up and down the stairs.  I’m personally a big fan of walking meetings.  If there is a meeting that does not require the use of in-office technology or the use of a whiteboard, try to have the meeting while walking around the block.  It gets you out of the office into fresh air, and lets you get a bit of exercise in during your workday.

Stopwatch

Pack Your Lunch

Think veggies, fats, and lean meats.  Ideally grass-fed / free range / wild caught, but that’s a whole different conversation. The key takeaway is that when you pack your lunch, you know exactly what you are ingesting, how fresh it is, and where it comes from.  Not only will it help you look better, feel better, and perform better, it also will be a bit easier on the wallet when compared to eating pricey takeout from the restaurants around the block.

Exercise Regularly

A great way to achieve this is by building it into your schedule.  You don’t even need to go too crazy, you just need to go consistently.  It is not about what you do, it’s about consistency.  Weight lift, run, practice yoga, take dance classes – whatever physical activity you prefer, just make sure it is something that you can do on a regular basis.  If possible, try to get some exercise during your lunch break at work, then eat at your desk afterwards.  It will break up your day, and you may even notice a newfound energy throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Snack Healthy

I love snacking.  I could eat dark chocolate and candy bars all day, but I opt for the healthy snacks.  Try a piece of fruit, a handful of mixed nuts, some carrots, or some yogurt and granola.  Ideally you want to keep the snacking to a minimum, but that is not always possible.  When you do feel that urge, go for the healthy choice.  Often times, realize that the snacking may actually be out of boredom, not out of hunger.  If that is the case, refill that water bottle we talked about earlier and take a quick stroll to clear your head.  You will find yourself back in that productive workflow in no time.

healthy snacks

Sit less, stand more, reward your body with healthy and nutritious food that will serve you, and get some exercise in each day.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients it probably doesn’t belong in your body. It sounds simple, but it comes down to all the small choices you make on a daily basis.

The key to making these lifestyle changes is keeping your eyes on the bigger picture – your personal well being; realizing that it is all about the journey rather than any one destination.  Make changes and improvements continually along the way, and you’ll find your fitness and wellness goals are easier to achieve.

stretch

How to Feel Younger

Our health is one of our most valuable assets.  When we’re healthy, we can spend higher quality time with our loved ones, can move around easily, and enjoy going out and having fun.  When we’re feeling under the weather, or have been living an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to find the motivation to do anything.

Perhaps you were in great shape in the past, but over the course of a few months, or years, your health has started to slip.  How do you go about getting healthy and feeling younger?  Use these simple strategies to put a smile back on your face and add that spring back into your step.

Adjust your Posture

It sounds simple, but even just sitting with better posture will change the way your body feels.  Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up.  Learn to get in the habit of paying attention to your posture throughout the day.  To get started, it’s helpful to stand against a wall and flatten your back against it.  It’s ok if it’s difficult at first.  After years of bad posture, you’re retraining your body to maintain the form it’s made to be in.

meditation

Get Moving and Increase Mobility

Even if you aren’t an athlete, it’s important to move around each day to get the blood flowing.  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.  Do air squats in the comfort of your own living room.  By getting daily exercise, you improve your circulation, heart health, digestion, and strength.  Exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body to look and feel younger.

Socialize Every Day

Humans are social animals.  For our entire history, we’ve lived in communities where we have regular interaction with our peers.  In this day and age, it’s easy to live an isolated lifestyle and go through the usual daily routine.  Even if your friends and loved ones don’t live nearby, make it a point to get out and socialize every day.  Start by making small talk with the people around you.  Strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line at the grocery store.  When in doubt, ask questions.  People love talking about themselves, and asking a question is a sure way to get the conversation going.

socializing

Eat a Healthy Diet

The food we eat directly affects the way that we feel.  When we eat a diet full of sugar, processed carbs, preservatives, and and chemicals, it leads to weight gain, moodiness, and poor health.  On the other hand, when our diet is full of vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats, our body is able to repair itself.  We feel younger, look fitter, and grow stronger.

Feed your Body What It’s Missing

Go and get a blood test.  Often times, when we feel sluggish, it may be the result of micronutrient deficiencies.  It’s amazing how quickly you start to feel young again when your body has the proper balance of nutrients.  There’s no magic pill, or end-all-be all, but starting with a blood test will show you what’s healthy, and where you need to make improvements.

Practice Daily Gratitude

There’s an ancient Zen philosophy, that says “learn only to be content.”  It’s the secret to lifelong happiness.  Be content with what you have, rather than focused on what you want.  Practice gratitude by saying three things that you’re thankful for every day.  They can be simple.  I’m grateful for the great weather.  I’m thankful for a cup of coffee in the morning.  I’m thankful for my loving family.  See how easy that is?

gratitude

bedroom

How to Start Sleeping Better

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or woman!) healthy, wealthy and wise.

sleeping better

It’s a quote, or even a proverb, that’s been thrown around for years, and almost seems cliche nowadays.  I remember hearing it from family members and others I looked up to from a very young age, and it’s always stood out as important in my mind.  But just because it’s important, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy live by.  Just because we understand it intuitively doesn’t mean that it is a top priority, or even comes easily.  In a world that is so connected, with schedules so packed, and social media feeds so enticing, getting quality sleep tends to often times take the back burner.  We tell ourselves we can will catch up on it later this weekend, but it doesn’t work that way.

How many times have you stayed up late into the night watching your favorite Netflix series.  Helping our children with last minute science projects is another frequent thieve of our sleep quality.  What about semi-mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, liking and commenting on photos and updates, and casually stalking on what our distant friends, relatives, and contacts have been up to?  It’s enticing, and downright enjoyable, but often times we end up unconsciously sacrificing our sleep for it.

This is a huge problem.

Dozens of studies are finding that sleep quality is absolutely critical for our long term health and well-being.  We live in a society that seems to glorify burning the candle from both ends, but it’s a surefire way to burn out our health much quicker than any of us would like.  When we don’t give our bodies adequate rest, it leads to weight gain, increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, and negative affects on our hormone levels.

If you aren’t living with the health, vibrancy, and energy that you once did, the quality of your sleep is the first thing you need to address.

Use these simple strategies to ensure that your body is getting the time to rest and recover that it truly deserves.

Stick to a schedule

Go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.  Even on the weekends.  Whether you’re a night owl, or an early riser, do your best to maintain the same schedule day-in day-out so your body can adjust to it.  We truly are creatures of habit, and our sleep patterns should be no exception.

scheduel

Power off an hour before you go to sleep

Our phones, computers, screens, and electronics emit blue spectrum light, which tricks our brains into thinking that it’s actually day time.  It tends to mess with our circadian rhythm.  Shut off all of your electronics an hour before you plan to go to sleep.  If you are going to still use your computer, use an app like flux to have your devices cut down on the blue light.

Watch your diet

When you have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep throughout the night, your diet could be the culprit.  Minimize caffeine consumption after noon, because caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours after you ingest it.  Avoid having a large meal right before bed time because your body uses energy to digest your food, which can make it difficult to have high quality sleep.  Do everything you can to cut back on your sugar intake, because it causes spikes in blood sugar, which leads to cravings and crashes throughout the day.

slow-cooker-root-vegetable-stew-1

Bedtime Ritual

Make a process that you can stick to each day as you wind down and get ready for bed.  Take a hot bath.  Have a cup of caffeine free tea to put you into a state of relaxation.  Curl up on your favorite chair with a book that will capture your imagination.  Meditate and process what happened throughout the day, so your mind isn’t racing and running through a mental to-do list as your trying to drift off to sleep.  Whatever elements you want to add to your ritual, make it a habit to stick to them so your body knows what to expect as you’re winding down.

Supplement with Magnesium and Melatonin

On average, more than half of us are deficient in magnesium, a micronutrient that’s fights insomnia, helps our bodies relax, and cuts down on cortisol, the “stress” hormone.  Take a serving of it prior to bed to help your body relax and get ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep cycle.  A great product to start with is Natural Calm – find it on Amazon, or at a local health foods store.  If that isn’t doing the trick, supplement with melatonin as well.  It’s a hormone that’s secreted by our pineal gland, and helps regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles.  Staring at screens too much, especially at night, is one way that our melatonin levels get out of whack.

Optimize your Bedroom for Sleep

Your bedroom should be your tranquil and peaceful place.  It’s that area of the house that is our personal sanctuary.  It should be reserved only for sleep, and intimate times.  When we try to use our beds as a place to rest, and also a place where we watch tv and browse social media, it sends our bodies mixed signals.  At night time when you’re trying to sleep, make the room as dark as possible.  Drop the temperature a few degrees.  Use essential oils like lavender or chamomile to promote restfulness and relaxation.  Use a noise canceller or a fan for white noise to block out the sounds of creaks in the house, distractions from outside, and anything that could easily wake you from your slumber.

Turn your Devices on Airplane Mode

Most of us sleep with our phone within a few feet of where we lay our heads down to rest.  Many of us use our phones and devices as alarm clocks, rather than the traditional clock on the bedside table.  The last thing we need is a social media notification or text message waking us from our sleep, so turn your devices on airplane mode (or do not disturb mode) if you’re going to keep them in your room next to your bed.

airplane

Exercise regularly

Go for a run.  Practice yoga.  Lift weights.  Swim.  Bike.  Hike.  Dance.  The world is such a rich, vibrant, and bustling place, and it’s very conducive to our physical well being.  We evolved for millions of years as hunters and gatherers – a lifestyle that was not sedentary, and filled our days with exercise, and led to restful and peaceful sleep.  Make a point to get your heart pumping because it will directly improve how quickly you fall asleep, and the quality of your restful time.

Sleep is a daily necessity for all of us.  Guard the quality of your sleep as best as you can.  When the quality of your sleep, or your life overall isn’t where you want it to be, look at the daily habits and practices that could have negative affects.  The recommendations are all simple, but when compounded they are a powerful tool we all have access to have more restful and rejuvenating sleep.

meditating

Meditation and Mindfulness – Why You Should Start

Meditation. When you hear the word, does it bring up imagery of tie-dye, long hair, and questionable hygiene?  How about cross-legged practitioners wearing flowing robes and chanting with eyes closed for hours on end.  This may be what comes to mind when you think of meditation, or what media has led you to believe, but there are plenty of reasons to change that perception.

Meditation is a practice that’s been around for thousands of years, and has been present in nearly every civilization around the world.  It has has substantial health benefits, and is something anyone can practice.  Scientists at Harvard studied the affects of meditation over a two week time frame, and found it to measurably increase the amount of grey matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is closely associated with learning and memory.

The Benefits of Regular Meditation and Mindfulness

In addition to improving the capacity for learning and memory, meditation has a whole host of benefits; they’re right at your fingertips.  It’s been known to decrease depression, pain, and stress.  Meditation benefits practitioners by instilling a greater sense of life satisfaction.  It fosters a peaceful and calm demeanor that’s noticeable throughout the day, and can help you with more control, presence, and awareness with all of your thoughts and emotions.

What is Meditation Anyways?

There are plenty of ways to go about it, but at the very core, meditation is the act of sitting calmly and quietly, clearing your mind, and focusing on your breathing.  When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, then slowly let them pass.  Some folks like to chant a mantra over and over to stay focused, others prefer to pay close attention to their breathing.  Some meditators sit cross legged on the floor, others sit comfortably on their beds or in their desk chairs.

The great news is there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, it’s a very personal and subjective experience.  There’s no need to worry about posture, position, or what you’re wearing.  Try to find a method that is enjoyable, and is easy to build into your schedule for the day.   

Start Small

small ladybug

Commit to dedicating just two minutes per day.  Within the first hour of waking in the morning is a great time to do it, and so is in the evening before bed.  How about right now.  Let’s silently meditate for two minutes together right this very moment.  Sit back in your chair so you’re in a comfortable position.  Take a few deep breaths, and let your eyes slowly close.  Focus on your breathing, and just contently sit in place for two minutes.  Do it now.  Breath in deeply through your nose, and out slowly through your mouth.  Count your breaths slowly up to ten, then count back down.  Pay attention to any aches and pains in your body, any signals that might be getting sent, signals that you may be ignoring in your day to day life.  Relax and clear your mind, and just sit contently in place.

Am I Doing it Right?  Don’t Worry!

One of the easiest pitfalls is when practitioners worry whether or not they’re meditating correctly.  Don’t get caught up in this trap, because there really is no right or wrong answer.  Just go through the motions, and focus on the process and the journey, rather than a specific outcome.  The benefits of meditation come through consistent practice over a longer time frame, so learn to appreciate the couple minutes of peace and calm.  Focus on your breathing, try to quiet the voices in your mind, and pay attention to how your body feels as you relax and meditate.

Come Back to Your Center

When you’re meditating, it’s inevitable that your mind will start to wander.  Learn to be aware of these tangential thoughts, and come back to your peace and calm.  Think of each time your mind starts to wander as a chance to practice self awareness.  Acknowledge the thoughts as they come up, then let them slowly pass.  Each time you are able to become aware of your wandering thoughts, and refocus on breathing and clearing your mind, it gives your brain more control and awareness.

ocean
Be the Observer of Your Thoughts

You are not your thoughts, you are merely the observer.  A metaphor that’s always helped me, is to think of your mind as a vast ocean.  Envision it as you meditate.  The ripples and waves on the top level of the water are your thoughts, but you go much deeper than that.  You are not your thoughts.  You are the vast body of water, that goes seemingly infinitely deep, and spans for miles and miles, farther than the eye can see.  Sometimes there’s a quiet peace and calm, and the water may be still as glass.  Other times, there may be a torrential downpour with tidal waves that could capsize an ocean freighter.  Quietly observe, and come back to your center each and every time.

Smile and Be Grateful for the Moments of Calm

smiling man

Whether you set an alarm each time you meditate, or you end your practice when it feels right, take a few moments to reflect on the experience.  Smile.  Breathe deeply.  Say something you’re grateful for, it can be big or small.  Today you woke up happy and healthy.  You have a community of family and loved one that care about you.  You dog was excited to see you in the morning.  There is so much to be grateful for all around us.  Meditation helps us focus on the blessings we have all around us, and helps us live with more appreciation and gratitude throughout the day.  Learn to appreciate the time that you dedicate for your practice, because it’s a time that’s truly yours, and will help your mind and body become more aware and present throughout your waking life.

Resources

There are tons of resources out there that can help you get started, or refine your practice and take it the next level.  A few of them which I personally recommend because I’ve used them consistently, are:

ZenHabits

Headspace

cheese

Gut Health and Why You Should Take Probiotics

yogurtWe’re always told it’s healthy to consume probiotics, but why is that the case?  First, it’s important to understand what comprises the human body.  There’s bones, muscles, tendons, blood, lymph, organs, and lots and lots of bacteria.  The truth is, our bodies contain trillions of microorganisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with us.  That means that the bacteria living inside our bodies are beneficial to us and our health, and we are beneficial to them.

Why Bacteria Lives in our Bodies, and Why It’s a Good Thing!

There are tens of thousands of types of bacteria that live in our bodies, with the highest concentration of them living in our intestines and gut.  As a whole, they encompass our gut microbiome.  Think of it as an entire world of bacteria and microscopic organisms, contained entirely within our bodies.  They’re important because they help our bodies break down the food we consume so we can digest and use the nutrients as energy.

How Gut Health is Tied to Overall Health

The health of our gut is a great indication of our overall health, because the two are intimately tied together.  When you have a healthy blend of bacteria in the gut, you’re able to digest food effectively and efficiently, detoxify the body, absorb nutrients, and fight infection and inflammation.  If your gut microbiome is out of balance, or contains too many of the wrong types of bacteria, it can leads to problems.  Rapid weight gain, irritability, indigestion, poor mental performance, skin problems, and a weakened immune system are all characteristics of an unhealthy gut.

old ageIs my Gut Bacteria Trying to Tell Me Something?

Our gut communicates with our brain, through the vagus nerve.  Ever had a “gut feeling,” or do you make decisions “based on your gut?”  What about an intense craving for sugar, a craving so strong that it was just impossible to say no to that delicious cookie or cupcake?  This was likely due to the bacteria in your gut signaling a desire for sugar.  The bacteria in our guts communicate directly with our brain, and can even change the way that we behave via cravings and signals that are sent to our brains.   

How do we Change the Type of Bacteria in our Guts?

The good news is we can have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  The microorganisms in our gut microbiome feed on the food we put into our bodies, so it’s crucial we eat healthy food to promote better gut health.  Ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat?” 

We quite literally are comprised of the foods that we put into our bodies.  When we eat leafy greens and healthy fats, healthy types of bacteria that digest those foods tend to flourish.  If on the other hand, we eat a diet full of sugar, toxins, preservatives, and processed foods, it allows other types of microorganisms to take over the healthy balance in of bacteria in our bodies.

headstand

What Should I do to Improve the Balance of Healthy Bacteria?

  • Eat Healthy

The single biggest positive influence we can have on our gut bacteria is eating a diet comprised of whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber.  It feeds the healthy microbes in our bodies, so they are able to flourish.  Get as many vegetables into your diet as you can.  They’re low in calories, high in micronutrients, and are critical for long term health and wellness.

  • Eliminate Toxins

Processed foods, sugars, preservatives, and environmental toxins can wreak havoc on the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies.  Cut them out of your diet completely, or minimize them as best as possible to help get your gut micro biome back in check.  Everyone wants the cookie or the slice of cake now and then, and that’s ok.  Have your cheat meal or special dessert that you love, but don’t eat in excess.

  • Consume Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Yogurt, cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso are all great sources of healthy bacteria.  Probiotics and fermented foods contain healthy bacteria, so it’s a way to repopulate our gut with the right types of microorganisms.  They’ll help with digestion and make you healthier both inside and out.

  • Manage Stress and Get Adequate Sleep

Our stress and cortisol levels have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  Frequent stress and lack of sleep weakens our immune systems, and prevents us from performing optimally.  Guard your sleep as best as you can.  Stop using electronics an hour before bed time, turn off notifications to avoid interruption, and learn to meditate and be as present as you can throughout your day-to-day life.

  • Only Use Antibiotics when Absolutely Necessary

Antibiotics are one of the most important and effective aspects of modern medicine, but they must be used with care.  They are able to destroy harmful bacteria in our bodies, but they also tend to wipe out the good bacteria as well.  Only use them if absolutely necessary, because it’s critical to protect your gut health to the best of your abilities.  Make no mistake, they’re incredibly beneficial, but they need to be used in moderation, and only to treat specific illnesses when prescribed by your doctor.

What Should I Take Away?

The health of our gut and our body is intimately paired with our overall health and well being.  When the microorganisms are in check, they can be our best friend because they promote health, digestion, and longevity.  When they’re out of balance, they can be our worst enemy. 

Do everything you can to protect your gut, because it will help you achieve vibrant health and vitality.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your long term health as you are, so consider the foods and nutrients you put into your body each and every day. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “is this going to help me, or hurt me?”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

10 Motivational Tips For When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Our lovely fall weather seems to be wasting away quickly into plain ol’ yucky rain and pre-winter crud. There is a good reason bears and other creatures go into hibernation during this kind of weather. To help you not fall into hibernation mode and to make the most of even the dreariest weather, we have come up with some great motivational tips to stick with your fitness regimen in the months to come.

  • Getting up out of your warm flannel sheets can be a bear when the house is cold. Set your programmable thermostat to heat up the house 15 minutes before you wake up so that you can get up and get going with one less excuse to hold you back. If your thermostat isn’t programmable, investing in a new one is just a few dollars and could just be the thing to keep you going through the winter…in addition to the energy savings you will see!
  • Set out all of your workout clothes, water bottle, and gear the night before. Pack your gym bag, set up your yoga mat, dumbbells, kettle balls, or Bosu ball so everything is ready to go and calling your name.
  • Write up a variety of messages on colorful slips of paper with reminders of how good your feel after a workout, pics of yourself at your fitness best, motivational quotes, or the many health benefits of working out. Whatever you know are YOUR greatest reasons for working out, jot those down. In the morning, pull one slip out at random and surprise yourself with your “Workout Inspiration of the Day”
  • If it is the cold weather that is keeping you inside, have your coziest hoodie waiting to go in the dryer and warm it up just before leaving the house for the gym.
  • Re-create morning sunlight with a Wake-up-light to help set your inner clock to get moving even when it is still dark these winter mornings. Setting your body clock to get going these dark mornings is a huge help.
  • Plan your workout breakfast the night before so you are less likely to cast about for something to eat in the morning. When you start off your day in “healthy mode” you are more likely to continue it by not skipping out on your workout.
  • The night before, check out a few workout videos on YouTube for some fresh inspiration. Just one new idea is all it takes to get you excited to try it out the next morning.
  • Get a workout buddy. Even if some days your schedules prevent you from working out together, just agreeing to a text check in and knowing your partner will be counting on you to also check in, will keep you both going strong.
  • Set up a fresh, new workout music playlist so that the next day you have new tunes to get you jazzed.
  • Print up a pic of a great holiday outfit you will reward yourself with, that awesome new bike, or the entry form for that spring triathlon or Tough Mudder race you have been meaning to enter. Keeping your eyes on the goal (literally) can keep up your motivation and focus

Whatever floats your boat (especially for you kayakers); learn to adopt the tricks and motivational tips that keep you in the game and on top of your workouts these dark, cold months ahead. Let us know what motivational tricks work for you!

Featured photo credit Wikipedia Commons.

3363654727_0eb049ab5c_z

Understanding “Good Fats” vs “Bad Fats” in Your Diet

For many years, now the accepted school of thought is that fat in our diet is bad, lean is good. More and more studies in recent times are providing evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, is the root of an unhealthy diet. Fat is a necessary part of a normal, balanced healthy diet. Hold on to those two words: “Balanced and healthy”. Rather than avoid fats altogether or blindly consume low fat options in our diet, it is important to understand the various forms of fat and how our bodies metabolize them.

Understand that when food manufacturers provide low-fat versions of peanut butter, salad dressing, etc., they are usually adding sugars, additives, and salt to make them taste better. Don’t trade less fat for more sugar and processed ingredients. For example, margarine contains lower calories than butter but is high in trans fat. Margarine is manufactured using hexane, hydrogen gas, emulsifiers, bleach, and synthetic vitamins and colors. Call me crazy, but a bit of butter seems healthier on my toast than lower calorie margarine.

The healthy fats include omega 3 and omega 6 which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood and combat the bad LDL. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol deposits in the artery walls as early as childhood and adolescence. White blood cells increase to protect the blood vessels and convert the LDL to a toxic, oxidized form of cholesterol. Soon a low level inflammation is occurring in the artery wall, creating plaque.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats not only help lower your bad cholesterol levels, but also tend to be high in vitamin E, which is deficient in most people’s diets and essential for your bodies’ development of cells and healthy skin

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, tea seed oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashew, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grain wheat
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Cereal grains and pasta
  • vegetables and vegetable products
  • Fruits and whole fruit juices (non-pasteurized is best)
  • Nuts and seed products
  • Legumes
  • Finfish and shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Dairy and eggs

While these good fats contain more calories, they also help you to feel more satisfied, less likely to continue to consume more low fat options higher in sugar. But don’t load up on peanut butter and real butter; just use them in moderation.

Saturated fats comprise of more than two dozen different kinds and they are not all the same, nor should we approach them all the same. Until recently, the school of thought was to avoid all saturated fats.   But many sources of saturated fats are also really good for you in many other ways.

A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was not enough proof linking saturated fat alone to either heart disease or stroke. People had been replacing animal fats for vegetable oils and refined carbs, which caused triglycerides to go up and good HDL cholesterol to go down. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people on a lower-carb diet shed more weight faster than those on a low fat diet; even the low-carb group was consuming more fats. Likely because fewer carbs release less insulin, control hunger and reduce storage of fat. All of this helps to keep cholesterol at healthier levels.

So the question is not which saturated fats are acceptable and which aren’t but keep your entire fat consumption to no higher than 20-25% of your daily intake. Avoid saturated fats that are highly refined due to the additives, sugars, and chemicals involved in the process. If you have to choose between “low cal-low fat” trans fats such as margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening, or natural, saturated fats (in moderation, of course) then choose saturated fats. Keep your saturated fats as low as possible, but choose from sources of “good” saturated fats such as:

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Peanuts and other nuts
  • Regular 100% peanut butter instead of “low-fat” options
  • Wild Salmon instead of farmed
  • Butter instead of margarine
  • Organic, grass fed meats instead of grain and hormone fed (also avoid meats that are cured, processed with nitrates and other preservatives).

Understanding the wide variety of saturated fats and how they are metabolized is a detailed subject that we encourage you to explore before you just blindly toss all saturated fats out of your diet. The key is moderation and balance in all things. Know your fats and you will make better, healthier choices for your life. Please share with us your experiences with changing fats in your diet and what has worked for you.

 

Featured photo credit Flickr user Jaanus Silla.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.22.38 AM

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Fitness

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with a lovely, long fall harvest season with our temperate climate. Many veggies are readily available locally and organic and it is a great opportunity to stock up, try new recipes, and enjoy the bounty.

Here are some fantastic fall recipes that are friendly to your fitness regimen, as well!

Nothing says fall faster than soups. This simple, yet hearty Autumn Chicken Stew features some of fall’s top offerings: carrots, apples and parsnips. This one is easy to prep the ingredients the night before so that it is all ready to put together the following evening ready for dinner. In addition to its high vitamin A count, this soup is low calorie, low in cholesterol, and appropriate for diabetics. Serve with cheese sandwiches on the side for a full meal.

One of the healthiest squash you can try is pumpkin. It is action packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and lots of antioxidants. So start those brisk fall mornings off right with Spiced Pumpkin Maple Baked Oatmeal, it is high fiber, gluten free, good for your cholesterol, easy on the budget, preps really well the night before, allowing you to spoil your family and yourself with the yummy scents and flavors of spices and pumpkin with a hearty, warm morning meal.

This oh-so-easy-to make Roasted Fall Vegetables recipe takes full advantage of the abundance of organic squash and root vegetables available. The red potatoes are a great source of iron and vitamin C. Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, the butternut squash makes this a winning side dish to any entrée.

The abundance of apples each fall is a great opportunity for cooks everywhere. Put your fall apples to good use with this Apple Sangria recipe for your fall gatherings. Lower sugar content in white wine keeps this one a bit more in the “healthy” category than most drink recipes. Everything in moderation, right? 😉

 

In the comments section below, share some of your favorite fall recipes and how they are helping you in your healthy and fit lifestyle.

Photo source.

Keep Up with Calcium!

One doesn’t need a degree in nutrition to know that calcium is important in our diet. But maybe all the “reasons” have gotten a bit fuzzy in our brains over the years?  Well here is a refresher on why calcium is important for bone health, the various “drains” on calcium in our bodies, and some ideas on getting more calcium into your diet.

Calcium is a key in preventing and treating osteoporosis as well as other health benefits. Other than our bones, calcium is critical to many other functions in the body. It is used by our hearts for healthy blood vessels and regulates blood pressure, proper nerve and muscle function, and for adequate blood clotting.

As we get older, we also lose bone density.  The natural aging process causes our bodies to lose bone density at faster rates. However, even in our aging years, our bodies can and do build new bone. The trick is to adopt strategies to increase bone density faster than it is lost.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Getting enough

Individuals who had low calcium intake throughout their lives also have lower bone mass and higher fracture rates as they aged.  The vast majority of people in the US do not consume enough calcium needed for growing and maintaining healthy bones. The recommended calcium intakes in milligrams for various age groups are as follows:

  • 51-70 year old males: 1,000 mg/day
  • 51-70 year old females: 1,200 mg/day

Although many dietary guidelines state 1,200 mg/day as the maximum, rheumatologists recommend that those with a high risk of osteoporosis or over the age of 70 can take up to 1,500 mg/day.  Too much of a good thing can be…too much of a good thing, however. Over 2,500 mg/day can cause kidney stones and other health issues.

Calcium drains: Even for those who take enough daily calcium, there are factors that not only inhibit calcium absorption, but also deplete our bodies of calcium.

  • High levels of protein and sodium in the diet can cause the body to increase secretion of calcium through the kidneys.
  • Women in menopause experiencing hormonal change begin to lose bone density at a faster rate. Bones become more brittle as they naturally lose mass.
  • People with lactose intolerance may not be taking extra steps to insure enough calcium intakes.
  • Neglecting to consume vitamin D along with calcium inhibits absorption of calcium. The recommended daily does for vitamin D is 3,000-5,000 IU. Check this out for an explanation as to why the recommended dosage has increased. Better yet, get out in the sun for 15-20 minutes a day and gain your vitamin D3 directly into your bloodstream. If you will be out longer than 20 minutes, put on your sunscreen after that time.
  • Consuming colas and other carbonated drinks: The Phosphoric acid as well as the high sugar levels in colas dissolve calcium in your system.

Calcium and exercise: We know that resistance training strengthens our bones, right? But resistance training combined with strenuous endurance exercise such cycling or running can leave the blood with depleted calcium levels. To combat this, athletes who take their calcium supplements 30 minutes prior to a workout experience less of a decrease in calcium blood levels. So by no means should you decrease your workouts, just workout smart and take your calcium before hand.

Calcium rich foods:
½ cup firm tofu, calcium enriched with calcium sulfate   860 mg
Oatmeal 350 mg (sweeten your oatmeal with blackstrap molasses for an additional 137 mg)
1.5 oz. shredded cheddar cheese   324mg
1 cup Non-fat milk                     302 mg
1 cup plain low fat yogurt      300 mg
1 cup cooked soybeans           261 mg
½ can of canned salmon (with bones)    232 mg
½ cup firm tofu, calcium enriched with calcium sulfate   860 mg
6 oz. calcium fortified orange juice    200-260 mg
2 cups raw, chopped kale       188 mg
Approx. 1/3 cup almonds    150 mg

So now you have your why’s, why not’s, and how’s on calcium, it is up to you to determine your when’s.  What tricks and tips do you take to sneak more calcium in your diet? Do you have any favorite recipes?